PARENTS CONCERNED about inoculating their children with the controversial triple vaccine MMR will be forced to travel to Europe if they want a single measles vaccination, it was revealed yesterday.
The company that makes the single measles vaccine said it was withdrawing it from sale in Britain because it could not meet demand.
From now on parents will have only the option of using MMR, which has been linked by one study, published in the medical journal The Lancet, to autism and bowel disease.
Last night Pasteur Merieux MSD, the Paris-based company that makes both the triple and single vaccines, said the single vaccine had been available in Britain on a named-patient basis only.
"That meant it was only available to a very small number of people," said Dr Veronique Maguin, the company's marketing director.
"As demand grew we had to make an ethical decision about who the drug should be available to. It was a problem for the company because we could not satisfy everybody. Our main concern is one of public health and we felt we could not satisfy everybody."
There has been a huge increase in demand for the single measles injection since the report last February in The Lancet on MMR, which also inoculates against mumps and rubella.
While a subsequent report published by the Medical Research Council found no evidence of the link, many parents remain suspicious of the triple vaccine and want to see more research carried out into its possible side- effects.
Some believe that receiving all three vaccines at once has a negative effect on the immune system.
Ann Coote, a founder member of the pressure group Jabs - Justice, Awareness, and Basic Support - said she was astounded the company was withdrawing the single vaccine.
"It does seem very strange. Most manufacturers faced with a demand for something would be rubbing their hands together," she said.
"We get a lot of calls from parents who have lost faith in MMR and would prefer to have the option of a single vaccine. We would like to see MMR suspended and more research done.
"In the meantime single vaccines should be available. We are not against vaccines, we are against damage. Parents have a right to make a choice."
Mrs Coote said many parents were considering travelling to Europe to purchase single jabs.
She said that her own daughter, Rachal, stopped breathing after being injected with the triple vaccine at the age of 18 months.
Now aged 11, Rachal still suffers from epileptic fits and has the mental age of a six-year-old.
Her daughter's experience led Mrs Coote to set up Jabs, which has 1,700 members.
The Department of Health accepts the vaccine is not risk-free. "All drugs have side-effects," said a spokeswoman. "We believe that there is more risk from not having the vaccination."
She said the Government recommended having all three vaccinations at once, though she denied there had been any pressure placed on Pasteur Merieux MSD to withdraw the single vaccine.
"There is a risk to other children if a child is waiting to go back to the doctor for another vaccination. It is also more painful for the child," she said.
"But the decision to withdraw the single vaccine is the company's alone."
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